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Showing posts from 2008

Bill Pre-filing Begins

JEFFERSON CITY — Today (12/1) marked the first day that Missouri senators could begin the pre-introduction of bills for the 2009 legislative session. In preparation for the beginning of the legislative session in January, Missouri Senate rules allow bills to be pre-filed on December 1. It is customary that each member of the Senate, beginning with the most senior member, picks his or her top three priority bills, which are then each assigned a number. Lawmakers may pre-file bills continuing up to, but not including, the first day of session. Bills filed during this pre-introduction period are automatically introduced and read the first time on the opening day of session. Bills may also be introduced by any senator during the session, up until a certain deadline. The First Regular Session of the 95th Missouri General Assembly begins Jan. 7, 2009. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call…

Senate Members, Members-elect Choose Leaders for 2009-2010 Session

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri state senators and senators-elect caucused at the capitol building today (11/6) to choose leaders for the 95th General Assembly, which begins in two months.
The majority caucus unanimously endorsed current majority floor leader Senator Charlie Shields (R-Buchannan) as president pro tem, taking over for outgoing Senate leader Mike Gibbons (R-Kirkwood). Among a number of powers as Senate leader, the pro tem appoints committee members, assigns bills to committees and rules on points of order raised during chamber debate. (The caucus vote on this top Senate leadership post will be put before the full body in January.)
Current majority whip Senator Kevin Engler (R-Farmington) was tapped to fill the majority floor leader slot to be vacated by Sen. Shields. Among several duties, the majority floor leader sets the schedule of bills to be debated by the full body, the time allotted for floor debate on said bills, and the meeting times and dates of the Senate.
Senator Jac…

Senate Leader Signs Passed Bills

JEFFERSON CITY — Today Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons (R-Kirkwood) returned to the Capitol to sign off on the legislation that received final approval from the General Assembly during the 2008 Missouri legislative session.Sen. Gibbons, whose service in the Senate draws to a close this year, added his signature to several bills ranging in topic from property tax reform to illegal immigration. The bills he signed were delivered to the governor for approval. A signature from the governor turns the legislation into law. The 2008 regular session concluded May 16.For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Senate’s Hot Weather Rule Clears House

JEFFERSON CITY — Missourians in need of relief during the state’s hot and humid summers may soon be protected under Senate Bill 720, which today was passed by the Missouri House.The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Maida Coleman (D-St. Louis), creates a hot weather rule for utility companies by prohibiting them from shutting off service to past-due residential customers on days when the temperature is forecasted to rise above 95 degrees or the heat index above 105 degrees. The rule takes effect between June 1 and September 30. Sen. Coleman’s proposed law is similar to the cold weather rule already in place that prohibits utilities from shutting off service between March and November when the temperature is forecasted to dip below 32 degrees. Senate Bill 720 now returns to the Senate for approval of any changes made by the lower chamber. The 2008 regular session runs through May 16.For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To c…

Senate’s Property Tax Reform Passed by House

JEFFERSON CITY — Property tax relief is one step closer for Missourians after the Missouri House today passed Senate Bill 711, a long-awaited initiative that changes how property taxes are assessed in the state. Senate Bill 711, sponsored by Senate leader Mike Gibbons (R-Kirkwood), requires all taxing jurisdictions, regardless of whether they are operating at or below their tax rate ceiling, to roll back their tax rate to counter reassessment increases. Under current law, only taxing jurisdictions operating at their tax rate ceiling are required by Missouri's Constitution to roll back to protect taxpayers, leaving taxing entities operating below their ceiling to approve undisclosed tax increases with no legal recourse available for taxpayers. The legislation would also close a gap in Missouri law that allows taxing districts to apply new voter-approved levies to future assessments that remain unknown. For example, currently taxing jurisdictions can take a tax increase approved by …

Senate’s Rebuild Missouri Schools Program Moves to House

JEFFERSON CITY — Today the Missouri Senate gave a second vote to the Rebuild Missouri Schools Program — legislation that allows no-interest funding to rebuild certain damaged school facilities in the state.Senate Bill 1170, sponsored by Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter), would allow the state board of education to distribute no-interest loans to school districts that have sustained significant building damage or destruction due to catastrophic events. The bill gives school districts with one or more school facilities declared a disaster area by the governor or president the opportunity to apply for no-interest loans through a 20-year repayment agreement.Under the program, schools districts eligible for the Rebuild Missouri Schools Program must have experienced a pre-set level of damage or destruction as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency due to an “act of God.” Two years ago, a devastating tornado nearly destroyed the school in Caruthersville, which is located in Sen. Mayer…

Senate Adopts Horse Processing Resolution

JEFFERSON CITY — Today the Missouri Senate adopted a resolution urging Congress to support the continuation of horse processing in the United States.Senate Concurrent Resolution 35, sponsored by Sen. Wes Shoemyer (D-Clarence), asks Congress to support the continuation of horse processing in the U.S. and offer incentives to help create horse processing plants throughout the country. It also encourages Congress to oppose two federal bills, S. 311 and H.R. 503, which relate to the slaughtering of horses and other equine animals for human consumption.In 2006, Congress voted to ban the transport and slaughter of horses for human consumption, forcing horse processing plants to close and eliminating the export of processed equine meat. The Horse Welfare Coalition estimates between 90,000 and 100,000 unwanted horses are now exposed to abandonment and neglect. The 2008 regular session runs through May 16. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.s…

Senate Bill Reducing Tuition Rates for Veterans Passed by House

JEFFERSON CITY — Legislation establishing the “Missouri Returning Heroes Act” today was passed by the House and now moves back to the Senate for the approval of any changes made by the lower chamber. Senate Bill 830, sponsored by Sen. Maida Coleman (D-St. Louis), requires any public university or college that receives state funds to provide certain combat veterans with lower tuition rates for programs leading to a certificate, or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Institutions of higher education may charge no more than $50 per credit hour to qualified combat veterans. Eligible veterans include those who served in armed combat after Sept. 11, 2001, who were Missouri residents when first entering the military, and who were honorably discharged from military service. To continue receiving reduced tuition rates, a veteran must maintain at least a cumulative 2.5 GPA. Eligible veterans have 10 years from the date of their last discharge from service to receive lowered tuition rates. If t…

Senate's MOHELA Bill Signed by Senate Leader

JEFFERSON CITY — Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons (R-Kirkwood) today signed off on Senate Bill 967, effectively sending the measure to the governor’s desk where it awaits approval.The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter) allows the Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri (MOHELA) to expand its student loan offerings by permitting the state-sponsored organization to serve as the original source for federal Stafford loans.Currently, MOHELA is one of the only state-based student loan lending institutions in the country that does not originate, or serve as the original funding source for federally-guaranteed Stafford loans. Other federal loans are available under the same Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), but MOHELA was not authorized to originate Stafford loans.Federal loans are generally the most affordable loans available to students with the best interest rates and deferred payments until after graduation. By allowing MOHELA to expa…

Senate's Tax Credit Bill Endorsed by House Committee

JEFFERSON CITY — Senate Bill 718, sponsored by Sen. Harry Kennedy (D-St. Louis), was passed today by the House Special Committee on Job Creation and Economic Development. The bill is now eligible for further debate on the House floor.The primary component of the legislation extends the life of the Missouri Quality Jobs Act, an initiative enacted by the Legislature in 2005 to attract and retain employers by offering tax credits to companies paying workers the average, or above-average county wage, and offering to pay at least 50 percent of the premium for basic health insurance. The original legislation suspended the issuance of tax credits through the program as of last summer; SB 718 extends the tax credit program through August 30, 2013. It also increases the maximum amount of tax credits that can be issued under the act from $40 million to $60 million.Other maximums for certain state tax credit programs would be increased as well. For instance, tax credit ceilings for the Neighborh…

Senate Bill Barring Felons from Holding Public Office Receives First Nod

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate gave first-round approval today to Senate Bill 1245, sponsored by Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin). A second vote sends the bill to the House for similar consideration. Under current law, any person who commits a felony in Missouri is ineligible to run for public office. However, the law does not specify whether or not a felony committed in another state would also disqualify a candidate. Senate Bill 1245 clarifies the statute by explicitly stating that those who commit a felony in Missouri or commit a crime that would be considered a felony in Missouri in another state, are barred from qualifying as a candidate for or holding public office. The 2008 regular session will run through May 16.For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Senators Named to Budget Conference Committee

JEFFERSON CITY — Senate President Pro Tem Mike Gibbons (R-Kirkwood) today appointed five senators to serve on the Appropriations Conference Committee, which will further discuss the state budget for fiscal year 2009. Senators Gary Nodler (R-Joplin), Robert Mayer (R-Dexter), Scott T. Rupp (R-Wentzville), Joan Bray (D-St. Louis), and Tim Green (D-St. Louis) will all serve on the conference committee that is charged with helping to reach a compromise between the two chambers on the Missouri budget. The committee’s suggestions will then be sent to the General Assembly for approval before moving to the governor’s desk. The Senate Appropriations Committee received a House-approved budget in late March and brought revisions before the full Senate last week. The initiatives, House Bills 2001 through 2013, each allocate funds to specific departments and areas. Of these 13 budget bills brought before the General Assembly, only HB 2001 has received final approval from both chambers. House Bills …

Wide-Ranging Child-Related Bill Approved By House Committee

JEFFERSON CITY — A Senate bill that protects those who report incidents of child abuse, as well as addresses other issues relating to children was passed by the House Special Committee on Family Services this week. Committee approval sends the measure to the House floor for debate. Senate Bill 885, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Graham (D-Columbia), provides immunity from any civil or criminal liability to any person who reports a case of suspected child abuse, neglect, or assault to the proper authorities — including liability for any action taken by an institution, facility or agency. The measure also allows investigation reports of child abuse or neglect to be released to the alleged offender with pending criminal charges stemming from facts named in the report prior to an indictment. Currently, the offender has 60 days from receiving notice from the Central Registry of the Children’s Division to seek a reversal and a review of the findings by the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board. The…

Senate's Property Tax Reform Bill Clears House Committee

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate’s solution for dealing with rising property taxes, Senate Bill 711, was passed by the House Ways and Means Committee today.Senate Bill 711, sponsored by Senate leader Mike Gibbons (R-Kirkwood), requires all taxing jurisdictions, regardless of whether they are operating at or below their tax rate ceiling, to roll back their tax rate to offset reassessment increases. Under current law, only taxing jurisdictions operating at their tax rate ceiling are required by Missouri's Constitution to roll back to protect taxpayers, leaving taxing entities operating below their ceiling to approve undisclosed tax increases with no legal remedy for taxpayers. The legislation would also close a loophole that has allowed taxing districts to apply new voter-approved levies to future and unknown assessments. For example, under the current law, taxing jurisdictions can take a tax increase approved by the voters in 2008 and then apply that new tax rate to the higher …

Green Sales Tax Holiday Approved by Senate Committee

JEFFERSON CITY — A Senate bill that proposes a sales tax break for green-friendly consumers was passed by the Senate Commerce, Energy and Environment Committee today. Sen. Jeff Smith (D-St. Louis) is sponsoring Senate Bill 1117, which creates the "Show Me Green Sales Tax Holiday” to encourage the purchase of energy efficient home appliances. Beginning in 2009 and each following year, the seven-day tax break would run April 19 through April 25. The first $1,500 Missourians pay per Energy Star-certified appliance would be exempt from state sales tax. Cities and counties may opt in to the sales tax holiday at their discretion. If enacted, the measure will expire August 28, 2012. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Forensic Exam Bill Receives First-Round Approval from Senate

JEFFERSON CITY — Senate Bill 1159, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Mike Gibbons (R-Kirkwood) received first-round approval from the Missouri Senate today.The measure changes how forensic examinations are conducted for victims of sexual assault. For instance, if a medical provider believes that the offender is the victim’s parent or guardian, and the victim is under the age of 18, the medical provider is only required to provide written notice of an exam to the parent or guardian not suspected of committing sexual assault.When conducting a forensic exam and providing treatment, medical professionals follow a checklist developed by the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). Sen. Gibbons’ legislation also requires the department to develop a kit for medical providers to use to collect evidence, if necessary. Under current law, DHSS pays medical providers to cover any forensic exam charges for sexual assault victims. Senate Bill 1159 requires that medical providers be paid…

Senate Endorses Bill to Better Autism Education and Services for Missourians

JEFFERSON CITY — Legislation that offers Missourians living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) comprehensive resources for diagnosis, treatment and other services received first-round approval from the Missouri Senate yesterday. A second vote sends the bill to the House for similar consideration.Senate Bill 768, sponsored by Sen. Scott T. Rupp (R-Wentzville), creates the Missouri Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders that will advise the governor, members of the General Assembly and state agencies, as well as develop a sweeping statewide plan for an integrated system of training, treatment and services for people of all ages with ASD. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism strikes one in 150 children in the United States — more than AIDS, juvenile diabetes and cancer combined. Last year, the General Assembly more than doubled the funding for autism diagnosis and treatment, helping to shorten the wait time for individuals needing services. The measure …

Senate Advances Supplemental Funding Bill

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate today passed a supplemental budget bill that will now move back to the House. Each session the Legislature considers funding needs that arise during the middle of the budget year and makes adjustments accordingly through an all-encompassing supplemental budget bill. House Bill 2014 allocates additional funding to various state departments, agencies and programs for fiscal year 2008. One program scheduled to receive funding through HB 2014 is the Foundation Formula. This formula appropriates funding divided among schools based on student need, not property value, and ensures that schools receive adequate financial support for their students. Public schools in Missouri received a $132.6 million increase in FY2008 for this phased-in formula and HB 2014 assigns an additional $29.2 million to the program.Additional funding of $1.5 million for the Sheltered Workshop program is also part of the supplemental budget bill. The workshops provide employment wi…

Mid-Session Report: Senate Sends 50+ Bills to the House

JEFFERSON CITY — As of this week’s mid-session recess, the Missouri Senate has given final approval to 54 bills that have now moved to the House for similar consideration. Six others have received preliminary approval and will be sent to the House pending a second vote by the Senate.Of the 578 Senate bills introduced this legislative session, 149 have been passed by their respective Senate committees and still await discussion by the full body. Bills of note passed by the Senate so far this session include:* Senate Bill 711 (Sen. Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood):Protects Missouri taxpayers from property tax increases caused by reassessment. The bill closes tax increase loopholes, requires earlier notice and more information regarding reassessment be sent to taxpayers, and expands tax credit eligibility for seniors and the disabled.
* Senate Bill 720 (Sen. Maida Coleman, R-St. Louis): Creates a hot-weather rule by prohibiting electric or natural gas companies from shutting off service to pa…

Omnibus Agriculture Bill Receives First-Round Approval from Senate

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate today gave first-round approval to an omnibus ag bill designed to further promote and expand the state’s largest industry. A second Senate vote moves the bill to the House for similar consideration.Senate Bill 898, sponsored by Sen. Dan Clemens (R-Marshfield), covers a wide-range of topics, including:* Creation of a tax credit for farming operations participating in odor reduction
activities. * A tax credit for the costs of constructing alternative fuel vehicle refueling centers. * A tax deduction for buyers of hybrid vehicles and a tax credit on E-85 gasoline
and biodiesel purchases. * A sales tax exemption for the purchase of fuel and fencing materials for agricultural purposes.* Expanding an ethanol production grant to include producers using biomass.* Exempting farm machinery used in conjunction with forestry from state and local sales tax. * Lowering the cost of certain dairy-related loans and enacting dairy planning grants.* Crea…

Copper Theft Prevention Bill Receives Initial Approval by Senate

JEFFERSON CITY — Today the Missouri Senate gave first-round approval to a bill that would help curb valuable metal theft in Missouri. Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter) sponsored the legislation, which requires more detailed record-keeping by scrap metal dealers as well as makes it a felony to steal or unlawfully sell copper or aluminum. A second vote moves the measure to the House for similar consideration. Senate Bill 1034 addresses a fast-growing theft problem that is affecting many Missourians, from consumers and farmers to business owners and utilities. With certain metal prices at all-time highs, the idea of fast cash proves too enticing for thieves who are stealing items such as telephone cable, copper piping and farming equipment — and creating a significant public safety risk. The legislation requires scrap dealers to obtain driver’s license and vehicle information from the people who sell them copper. Records would include date, time and place of transaction and must be kept for two …

Senate’s Property Tax Reform Bill Advances to House

JEFFERSON CITY — The much-anticipated property tax reform bill, Senate Bill 711, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons (R-Kirkwood), was given final approval by the full Senate today. It now moves on to the House for similar consideration. Senate Bill 711 mandates that all taxing jurisdictions, regardless of whether they are operating at or below their tax rate ceiling, must roll back their tax rate to counter reassessment increases. Currently, only taxing jurisdictions operating at their tax rate ceiling are required by Missouri's Constitution to roll back to protect taxpayers, leaving taxing jurisdictions operating below their ceiling to approve back door tax increases with no legal recourse. The legislation would also close a loophole that has allowed taxing districts to apply new voter-approved levies to future and unknown assessments. For example, under the current law, taxing jurisdictions can take a tax increase approved by the voters in 2006 and then apply …

Missouri Returning Heroes' Education Act Initially Approved by Senate

JEFFERSON CITY — Senate Bill 830, or the Missouri Returning Heroes’ Education Act, sponsored by Sen. Maida Coleman (D-St. Louis), today (2/13) received first round approval by the full Senate. The measure limits the tuition a public Missouri university or college may charge to certain combat veterans to no more than $50 per credit hour for programs that culminate in either the earning of a certificate, or an associate or bachelor’s degree. For veterans to participate in the program, they must have served in armed combat after September 11, 2001, been Missouri residents when they first entered the military and been discharged from their service under honorable conditions. One stipulation of the act requires veterans to maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average to continue receiving the tuition reduction. Also, the benefit expires 10 years after the veteran’s last discharge from service. If the Senate gives the bill final approval, it will move to the House for similar consideration. …

Senate Advances First Funding Bills

JEFFERSON CITY — The Senate yesterday (1/28) passed three supplemental budget bills that will now move on to the governor’s desk for signing into law. Each session the legislature considers funding needs that arise during the middle of the budget year and makes adjustments accordingly through supplemental budget bills.House Bill 2015 provides $6.4 million in additional funding to Missouri’s Utilicare program, which was established in 1979 to help low-income families with their utility costs. In recent history, Utilicare has been funded solely by the federal government, but in 2006 the state began to once again supplement the program with state dollars so more Missourians could receive assistance. Specifically, the additional funding will be added to the Utilicare Stabilization Fund for the purpose of aiding the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP ensures that approximately 22,000 Missouri families who would likely otherwise have their service terminated because …

Senators Join Fellow Lawmakers for State of the State Address

JEFFERSON CITY — Lawmakers from both the Senate and the House of Representatives gathered last night (1/15) for the governor’s State of the State Address.The speech reviewed the accomplishments of 2007 and outlined priorities for 2008.The speech praised many accomplishments from the previous year.Senators worked hard last session to pass several Senate bills including one reforming Missouri’s healthcare system (SB 577) and another funding capital improvement projects and increased scholarships for higher education in the state (SB 389).Both bills were signed by the governor and became law last year. The governor’s address echoed many items that senators have announced as the top of their legislative agendas.Healthcare will again be a concern this session as lawmakers work to increase the availability of affordable health insurance.Property tax reform is another issue the General Assembly has been working to address with several bills already filed that are attempting to find solutions…

Senators Begin Work on Legislation

Second Regular Session of 94th Missouri General Assembly Begins Jefferson City — Missouri lawmakers gathered this week at the state Capitol to begin the 2008 Legislative Session. Senators gathered in the Senate Chamber at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 9.Work has already begun on a legislative agenda as senators continue to add to the more than 200 measures already filed.Introductory remarks by the Senate President Pro Tem set several priorities for lawmakers as well as a desire to create legislation that will make life better for Missourians.Issues that will be a priority for the Senate include the rising cost of property taxes, the problems created by illegal immigration, and making healthcare more accessible to more people. In addition to the more than 200 Senate bills that were prefiled before the session began, 12 measures were introduced on the floor this week.Before work can begin on specific legislation, bills must first be referred to committees.Some of the referrals were made this …

Senators Prepare for 2008 Legislative Session

Missouri General Assembly Convenes January 9
Jefferson City — Lawmakers are making the final preparations before the start of the 2008 legislative session on Jan. 9. Prefiled legislation was numbered and available to the public on Dec. 1, and senators have continued to file legislation since that date.
To date (1/3), senators have prefiled more than 200 bills for the 2008 legislative session. Lawmakers have until March 1 to file legislation. A Senate bill is first discussed in committee where lawmakers hear testimony and then vote on whether or not to send the measure forward to the full Senate. Once the Senate approves a bill, it goes to the House for committee discussion and debate. House bills begin the same process in House committees before moving on to the Senate. Any disagreements on legislation are ironed out in a conference committee. When the Legislature completes work on a bill, it is sent to the governor for final approval before being signed into law.
Throughout the…